August 22, 2011

Violence in Venezuela

A new report from the International Crisis Group opens a dialogue on crime in Venezuela before the upcoming elections.

The International Crisis Group recently released a report exploring the complex criminal activity and widespread violence in Venezuela. While media coverage surrounding Venezuela tends to focus on oil, President Hugo Chavez and censorship, this article describes the issue of organised crime and violence in the country. The report opens a dialogue on the current state of Venezuela and what role Chavez played in bringing the country to its current state.

According to the study, a person is murdered in Venezuela every half hour due to gang and drug related violence. It goes on to say that international organised crime filters in through the borders from Colombia leading to greater kidnappings, drug trafficking and homicides. With armed paramilitaries, opposition groups, gangs, drug organisations, and a corrupt police force so intertwined, the think tank says a simple resolution is unlikely.Although the report is critical of Chavez, it recognises that there were factors beyond his control that lead to the current situation when he took power in 1999.

Supporters of Chavez say his policies are more proactive in developing Venezuelan communities than previous administrations, but are plagued by disruptive opposition forces. They also contend the states with the highest number of murders are governed by the opposition. Pro-Chavez Venezuelans believe he made credible efforts to reduce violence, and he cannot be held responsible for factors stemming beyond the borders. Regardless of who wins the upcoming 2012 elections, the International Crisis Group’s report expects politically motivated violence to escalate.

Dialogue on Venezuela’s violence has increased as Chavez's health continues to come into question. The media has also begun increasing coverage of the aggression as candidates gear up for upcoming 2012 elections.

Joining us on the couch is Liza Sabater, a netactivist and publisher of the blog Culturekitchen.com. Coming in via skype is Silke Pfeiffer, project director of Crisis Group’s Colombia/Andes in Bogata, and Lainie Cassel a journalist and filmmaker who focuses on youth and violence in Venezuela.

These are some of the social media elements featured in this episode of The Stream.